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cation seven years after his death (which probably surprised him in the intention) as it would appear on their own account, and for their own advantage.
AUGUSTUS WILLIAM SCHLEGEL. m
m Lectures on Dramatic Literature apud Black, vol. ii. p. 107—117. The following attempt to assign the reasons which might prevent the immediate superintendence of Shakspeare over his own works, I have put into the mouth of the poet
“ Tale of the Days of Shakspeare," and I am happy to find that it has been considered as making a probable approximation to the truth._"Why do you not, my friend,” says Montchensey to the bard, “ retired as you now are from the bustle and competition of a London life, give us a collected, and what I will not hesitate to say is much wanted, a corrected edition of your dramas ? Not only are the quarto copies we possess printed in such a manner as to convince me they have had not a particle of your superintendence; but a number of plays, of which, I am persuaded, you have scarcely written a line, have been brought on the stage as yours, and even published with your name?”
“ It is very true,” replied the bard, with a somewhat jocular air," and I must be content, I am afraid, like many a greater man, to father what does not strictly belong to me. But, indeed, my good friend, whilst 1 heartily thank you for your kind anxiety about the fate of my productions, I must at the same time confess that I have never get dreamt of doing what you have suggested. The fact is, the pieces you allude to have more than answered my expectations; for they have not only procured me a bare subsistence, one of the chief objects for which they were at first written, but they have likewise obtained me the applause and good-will of my contemporaries, the patronage and friendship of several great and good men, and a competency for life. What may be their lot when I am dead and gone, and no longer here to give them countenance, I have scarcely yet ventured to enquire; for though I will not
be weak enough to pretend an ignorance of their occasional merits, I am too conscious of their numerous errors and defects to suppose that posterity will trouble their heads much about them.”
“ Indeed, indeed, my noble host," rejoined Montchensey, kindling into unusual animation as he spoke, "you much too lightly estimate the value of your own works.
Without arrogating to myself any deep insight into futurity, I think I may venture to predict that a day will arrive when this inattention of yours will be a theme of universal regret.”
Say you so, my kind critic?” returned his somewhat astonished auditor, his mind momentarily sinking into reverie, whilst his eye flashed at the same instant with an intelligence that seemed penetrating the secrets of time; “ Say you so ?" he repeated; then starting, as it were, from the vision before him, he added in a more subdued tone, and with a look in which the most benevolent sweetness was yet mingled with a portion of subsiding enthusiasm," if life and health be vouch-safed me, I will endeavour not to forget your suggestion. It is, indeed, but too true that much has been given to me, both on the stage and from the press, which I have never written, and much too has been sacrificed on my part, the necessary penalty of my profession, to please the popular ear; and for all which, I must likewise allow, the bare process of omission would be a ready cure. But the attempt to meet the evil as it should be met, is not just now in my power, for a great part of what I have produced is still the property of the theatre; and though my late fellows, Heminge and Condell, would, I have no doubt, do what they could to further my wishes, yet neither does the matter rest entirely on their shoulders, nor would their copartners, and the stationers connected with them, relinquish, at the present period, their share of the expected profits without a compensation too extravagant for me to think of. Yet a time may come when I shall more easily regain the control over my own offspring which I have now lost; and if it should not, you will recollect that I am no critic like my friend Ben Jonson ; that, with the exception of his plays, mine partake but a common fate with those of my contemporaries; and that, moreover, it is very probable the revision you wish for, should it pass, as in all likelihood it would, beyond the mere measure of blotting out, might in many instances injure the effect of what had been happily produced in the careless feryor of the moment. Besides, I must freely confess to you that retirement from the stage and all its concerns has long been a favourite object with me. My life has been one of bustle and fatigue, and, occasionally, of gaiety and dissipation; as an actor, I never felt myself sufficiently important to be fond of the occupation, and though the hours spent in composition were attended with pleasures great and peculiar to themselves, and have been abundantly rewarded by the public, I may, I think, without any charge of ingratitude, be permitted to remark that even in this way I have done enough."-Noontide Leisure, vol. i. p. 47, et seq.
THE LIFE AND GENIUS OF SHAKSPEARE.
The glory of Shakspeare at first appeared in France to be a subject of paradox and scandal; it now threatens the ancient renown of our theatre. This revolution, which has been already remarked, undoubtedly supposes great changes in opinions and manners ; not only has it given birth to a question of literature and taste, but it has awakened many others which belong to the history of society. We shall not here attempt to enter into them : the study of the works of a man of genius is a subject of itself sufficiently fruitful.
Voltaire alternately called Shakspeare a great poet and a miserable buffoon, a Homer and a Gilles. In his youth, returning from England, the enthusiasm which he brought back with him for some of the scenes of Shakspeare, was considered as one of the daring novelties which he introduced into France. Forty years afterwards the same man levelled a thousand marks of sarcasm against the barbarity of Shakspeare, and he chose the Academy in particular as a sort of sanctuary for the fulmination of his anathemas. I know not if the Academy would, in the present day, tolerate such usage ; for the revolutions of taste penetrate into the literary world as well as into the world at large.
Voltaire deceived himself in wishing to debase the astonishing genius of Shakspeare; and all the burlesque citations which he accumulates for this purpose, prove nothing against the enthusiasm of which he himself had once partaken. I do not speak of La Harpe, who was led away by an intemperate displeasure not only against the defects but the reputation of Shakspeare, as if his own theatre had been in the least degree menaced by the gigantic fame of this poet. It is in the life, the age, and the genius of Shakspeare, that the critic must seek, without system and without caprice, for the source of his singular faults and powerful originality.
William Shakspeare was born on the 23rd of April, 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick. We know very little respecting the childhood and the life of this celebrated man; and, notwithstanding the minute researches of biographical erudition, excited by the interest of so great a name, and by national self-love, the English are acquainted with little more in relation to him than his works. One is not able, even amongst them, to determine very clearly whether he were a Catholic or a Protestant, and they still discuss the question whether he were not lame, like the most famous English poet of our own age.